|What are your thoughts heading into the Texas race next weekend with the track’s repave?
“It’s going to be a whole new deal with the repave. I’m not a big fan of the repaves. But it’s a part of our schedule, it’s a part of our sport. Five years from now, six years from now, it’s going to be great. I’m looking forward to that aspect of it. Right out of the gate, going there, trying to put rubber down, it’s slick, man. It’s so treacherous, hard to get ahold of, hard to understand what you’re feeling with your car, because you can think you’re tight, you’ve got all the grip in the world, you’re going around the corner, and then, ‘Boom,’ it just busts loose right out from under you with no warning. That’s the worst thing. That’s why the older racetracks, the more aged racetracks – the Atlantas, the Californias – you’re sliding the whole time, so you’re already against the slide. You don’t have maximum grip. You’re already playing with it and trying to get the most out of yourself and the car that you possibly can. You’re not just locked down, locked in solid, then it just jumps out from under you, you know. I don’t necessarily look forward to repaves, but we’ve got one coming up, so we’ve got to do what we know and try and have a good run with our Interstate Batteries Camry. There’s really no homework to do. You can’t even watch last year’s races. You can’t look at anything besides the (Chris) Buescher YouTube video and just see what the place looks like so you don’t go in there blind. That’s about it.”
How special has the partnership between JGR and Interstate Batteries been for you?
“It’s crazy, if you think about it. If it weren’t for Norm (Miller, Interstate Batteries Chairman), JGR wouldn’t even exist today. Personally, Norm and everyone at Interstate Batteries treats me and my family like we are a part of their family. We won the race at Daytona back in 2008 and that was the first time Interstate Batteries had been to victory lane in a long time, and we’ve been able to add more for them over the years. Winning at Texas was special last year, too. Any win is special. But, I’ll never forget how excited Norm was back a few years ago when we won the Cup race at Texas in 2013. He had been trying for so many years and he really soaked it up the entire night. He and Joe (Gibbs) came up to the Speedway Club and told some stories about how long they had been trying to win there. So I was very proud to be able to do that for Norm.”
Should it be alarming or surprising that two of the better teams, Joe Gibbs Racing and Hendrick Motorsports, haven’t won yet this year?
“I don’t think it should be alarming. I think it’s probably a good thing, to be honest with you. There needs to be more parity in our sport. There need to be other teams that have the opportunity to get up there and run well and win races. You see RCR (Richard Childress Racing) has done that. You see Ganassi has done that. Those would be two teams that probably haven’t won in the last couple years. I know (Kyle) Larson won a race last year, but not regularly, let’s say, like the JGR bunch or the HMS bunch. Our time is coming. We were so close last week at Martinsville. We know that. We’ll get it up to speed to where we need to. I think we’re playing a little bit of catch‑up right now, to be honest with you. We do have great partners with the guys at Furniture Row who have been running really well. They’ve been strong and up front each week. They’ve been helping us, as well, getting our program to where we believe we know it can be. They’ve shown us. They’ve had the potential each week. We just have to get there ourselves.”
How special was it to get Interstate Batteries to victory lane in the company’s backyard back in 2013, and then again last season?
“It felt good to sit on the pole with a new track record and go to victory lane back in 2013. On top of that, just to see the look on Norm’s (Miller, Interstate Batteries Chairman) face was priceless and something I will never forget. It doesn’t get much better than that. It was a fast race and I expect more of that this weekend. Texas is fast. We were able to carry a lot of speed throughout the turns and down the straightaways throughout the whole race. It was a tough day there for a bit, getting loose, trying to slide around, trying to find grip, being able to move to the middle or move to the top. As soon as that caution came at the end, my boys stepped up to the plate and hit a grand slam and got us to victory lane. Last year, we also didn’t have the best car, but took advantage of some circumstances late in the race and brought home another win there. This year will be a new challenge with the repave, but we don’t go to the racetrack without setting our goal to win this race, and this weekend won’t be any different.”